The Company that Helps People with Disabilities Masturbate
How a dildo, a fleshlight and something called the "Fist of Adonis" became activism.
This article originally appeared on VICE Sweden
It's been about two years since we last heard from the Gothenburg Cooperative for Independent Living (GIL). Back then, the disability rights group wanted to shine light on shitty pub circumstances for the handicapped with the help of their own brewed beer, which seems to have worked out pretty well: "Our beer has won several prizes since we last spoke," Anders Westgerd, spokesperson for GIL tells me over the phone. But the reason we're talking this time isn't because of a beverage. It's because he sent me a dildo with a weird yellow handle in the post last week.
The dildo – as well as the fake vagina and the "Fist of Adonis" that complete the set – are supposed to be disability-friendly and come with a special manual (you can watch it below).
As laid out by the manual, the sex tools, as GIL calls them, make sex a pretty awkward business – both for the disabled and the assistant. The process includes sanitary clothing and mechanical jerking off movements. It's probably one of the least sexy situations you could ever imagine.
However, these toys aren't hitting sex stores any time soon. The invention of sex toy manufacturer Secreta AB is rather GIL's way of communicating that people who need assistance have the same needs as everyone else. I had to talk with Westgerd to get my head around how a dildo, a fleshlight and a plastic fist can become activism.
VICE: Hey Anders, thanks for the dildo!
Anders Westgerd: No worries. I'm happy you like it.
Your sex toys, I mean tools, have been especially developed for the Live and Function fair, right?
Yes, exactly. It begun yesterday and will continue until Thursday, the 16th of April. It's Scandinavia's largest fair that deals with care and assistive technology. There's a lot of focus on assistive technology but not so much on how to actually live when you are disabled. That's something we want to change.
This campaign isn't really about sex; it's just a way for us to reach out to people. Sex and disability is a taboo. It all comes down to escaping from the idea that other people decide how we're supposed to live our lives. We're like anybody else and we want the opportunity to live like anybody else, too.
What are the most common preconceptions about the sex lives of people with disabilities?
Sex is something that takes up a lot of space in our culture but no one ever talks about sex in relation to individuals with disabilities and if you do, it's more from a perverted or freak show-ish point of view. Having sex as a disabled person isn't something that we talk about. Also, there are plenty of people who think that sex isn't something that we do.
In what way will this campaign change that mindset?
I hope that people will understand that we're normal humans who experience lust and not sexless objects. This isn't only about sex – it's about how everything about the life of a person with a disability seems to be scheduled and dictated by everyone else.
What about your "Fist of Adonis"? Isn't it possible that it will drive the focus away from what you're actually about?
People will probably misunderstand, but sometimes you need to shock people to make sure they get involved. Looking back at our previous campaigns – like the beer and the retarded doll – it's usually people without disabilities that become offended and like to tell GIL how things are supposed to be. But usually when we get the chance to have a conversation with them, they start to reconsider things.
How are these tools going to be presented at the fair?
We're going to have a really dull booth where you get a feeling of authority in the same way we experience our situation. We'll be dressed up as representatives of Secreta AB.
How did you come up with this idea?
Our work has always been focused on trying to reach the general public – not so much towards politicians and other authorities. I believe democracy starts with the individual. We need a collective change of view if we are to be regarded in the same way as any other citizen. Campaigns like this one helps GIL reach out to people who normally wouldn't pay that much attention to our situation. Sex is a way of opening up doors.
Good luck, Anders!
Find more information at Secreta AB's website.